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Mill was raised in the tradition of Philosophical Radicalism, made famous by Jeremy Bentham —John Austin —and his father James Mill —which applied utilitarian principles in a self-conscious and systematic way to issues of institutional design and social reform.
Utilitarianism assesses actions and institutions in terms of their effects on human happiness and enjoins us to perform actions and design institutions Philosophy essays on prostitution that they promote—in one formulation, maximize—human happiness.
As documented in his AutobiographyMill was groomed from birth by his father to become the ultimate Victorian intellectual and utilitarian reformer. As part of this apprenticeship, Mill was exposed to an extremely demanding education, shaped by utilitarian principles. While Mill followed the strict intellectual regimen laid down by his father for many years, he suffered a profound intellectual and emotional crisis in the period — As Mill emerged from his depression, he became more concerned with the development of well-rounded individuals and with the role of feeling, culture, and creativity in the happiness of individuals see Capaldi Though Mill never renounced the liberal and utilitarian tradition and mission that he inherited from his father, his mental crisis and recovery greatly influenced his interpretation of this tradition.
He became critical of the moral psychology of Bentham and his father and of some of the social theory underlying their plans for reform. It is arguable that Mill tends to downplay the significance of his innovations and to underestimate the intellectual discontinuities between himself and his father.
We need to try to understand the extent of the transformation Mill brings to the utilitarian and liberal principles of the Radicals. Bentham begins his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation with this hedonistic assumption about human motivation.
Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure Principles I 1. Bentham allows that we may be moved by the pleasures and pains of others. But he appears to think that these other-regarding pleasures can move us only insofar as we take pleasure in the pleasure of others V In his unfinished Constitutional CodeBentham makes this commitment to psychological egoism clear.
On the occasion of every act he exercises, every human being is led to pursue that line of conduct which, according to his view of the case, taken by him at the moment, will be in the highest degree contributory to his own greatest happiness.
So the version of psychological egoism to which he is attracted is psychological hedonism. He may see it as a generalization from his observations about the motives underlying human behavior. James Mill also treats psychological hedonism as axiomatic in his Essay on Government The desire, therefore, of that power which is necessary to render the persons and properties of human beings subservient to our pleasures, is the grand governing law of human nature.
But these concessions to psychological pluralism are exceptional. Even in contexts where Bentham recognizes motivation that is not ultimately self-interested, he appears to treat it as weaker and less dependable than self-interested motivation Book of Fallacies — Bentham claims that utility not only describes human motivation but also sets the standard of right and wrong Principles I 1.
By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question ….
Principles I 2 It remains to be determined whose happiness matters. One might imagine that it is the utility of the agent. This would be the ethical counterpart to psychological egoism. Bentham says that our account of right action, obligation, and duty ought to be governed by the principle of utility I 9— This seems to imply that an action is right or obligatory just insofar as it promotes utility.
But then the right or obligatory act would seem to be the one that promotes utility the most or maximizes utility. For these reasons, it is common to understand Bentham as combining psychological hedonism and hedonistic utilitarianism.
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INTRODUCTION. In , when the author of the essays here assembled was elected professor of political and social science in Yale College, he was, to use his own words, “a young and untried man.” He was selected for his position, not as a specialist, but because he was what he was.
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